Why West Seattle’s becoming an even busier hub of bicycle activity

Biking to work in honor of Earth Day? If you’re a regular bike commuter, ever heard of the Bicycle Commuter Act of 2008? Or even if you’re only a casual biker, you’ll still likely be interested in what’s ahead in the full story on bicycling-related news from Monday night’s “Bike-A-Palooza” at Sustainable West Seattle. For starters, you’ll see more sharrows and bike lanes on West Seattle roads before the year’s out:

Before we get to the road specifics, a taste of how Alki Bike and Board‘s Stu Hennessey kicked off the program, which he had organized, with not only speakers in the lodge, but also a mini-expo of bicycles and experts outside:

He listed more than a few benefits of biking – not just how it helps your health and saves money, but also reduces traffic and the load on roadways.

He acknowledged some bicyclists may seem a little wacky on the road – he described it as “driving under the influence of endorphins.” He suggested bicycle/car coexistence could be improved if everyone caught each other’s eye, smiled, and waved.

And then there are the practical aspects, such as the safety equipment he demonstrated – we caught most of his demo on video:

Gina Coffman from SDOT talked about what’s next for West Seattle under the Bicycle Master Plan, and discussed the upcoming Celebrate Seattle Summer Streets event closing Alki to most vehicle traffic on May 31st. (SWS president Bill Reiswig asked why it wasn’t being called Car-Free Day this year — “too controversial?” — and Coffman said, “Instead of closing the street to cars, we’re opening it up to people, so we’re putting a positive spin on it.”)

As for the master plan, she said 58 miles of bike lanes have been completed, with 35 to go this year – some of that along Fauntleroy Way, when the repaving/rechannelizing project commences around the middle of next month. She also said sharrows are in the works this year for Sylvan Way (through High Point) between Delridge and 35th, and California SW between Fauntleroy and Thistle.


Is there any indication how effective sharrows are? one attendee asked. Coffman said the city is doing a study with the University of North Carolina regarding that very question. “They’re meant to remind motorists to expect bikes, and also to check your placement on the roadway,” she explained, saying that if you are a bicyclist, align with the center of the chevron.

As the city’s rep at the meeting, Coffman was peppered with questions and concerns, including the need for better signage explaining how to cross the lower West Seattle Bridge. (Chas Redmond said the city’s printed bicycle map also gives that area short shrift.) “We’re two years into a 17-year plan,” she pointed out (here’s the new “progress report“), saying more improvements would be on the horizon. Attendees were eager to offer ideas, too; SWS president Reiswig mentioned “bike boxes” on Portland streets, as explained here, and Coffman said Seattle was “looking into it.”

Another presentation was made by a visitor from Wallingford, Cathy Tuttle, on behalf of Spokespeople (and Sustainable Wallingford, which is throwing an Earth Day party 4-6 pm today in the parking lot of the Wallingford QFC).

The mission of Spokespeople: “Empower(ing) reluctant cyclists to get on the road and safely go from urban center to urban center.” The group hosts regular rides and bicycle-safety education, all geared more for the average bicycle rider, and they include fun touches such as “low-impact snacks” (fruit?) from the grocery store, a “passport” for young participants showing they reached several milestones such as learning their helmet check.

Alki Bike and Board’s Hennessey says he hopes to set up Spokespeople rides from the Admiral District starting in June.

Also speaking: Serena Lehman from the Cascade Bicycle Club, which she described as the largest recreational club in the country (it also sponsors training, kids’ safety events, and a lot more).

One big focus of her talk: May isn’t just Bike to Work Month any more, it’s “Bike Month.” There IS a “Bike to Work Day” on May 15. Support “stations” will be set up all over the city, and Lehman said that anyone who wants to set one up — even in your own front yard — can get it listed on the Cascade Club’s website. Last year, she said, 23,000 participated in Bike Month, but this year they are going for 30,000.

Beyond “Bike to Work” day or month, there’s Bike Smart Seattle, which is branching into West Seattle as of this year, with rides and classes on tap this summer – you’ll see a postcard in the mail next month with full details of the program.

Sustainable West Seattle usually meets on the third Monday of the month, 7 pm, Camp Long Lodge. The second annual Sustainable West Seattle Festival is coming up on Sunday, May 3, 10 am-3 pm in The Junction — stand by for a sneak peek at program highlights later today!

16 Replies to "Why West Seattle's becoming an even busier hub of bicycle activity"

  • Stephanie April 22, 2009 (6:37 am)

    Should we put sharrows on every single road? Bikers may be present on every single road, right? Shouldn’t we just look for bikers all the time? I think it would be more helpful if we educate bikers to wear reflective gear. Reflective gear has been more helpful to me as a driver than the sharrows.

  • Al April 22, 2009 (9:04 am)

    “Is there any indication how effective sharrows are? one attendee asked. Coffman said the city is doing a study with the University of North Carolina regarding that very question. “They’re meant to remind motorists to expect bikes, and also to check your placement on the roadway,” she explained, saying that if you are a bicyclist, align with the center of the chevron.” Incorrect for cyclists. Many of us already know that Sharrows are placed directly in the door zone or too far to the right of the roadway, up against the curb, which is exactly where bikes encounter problems. This also encourages vehicles to pass a bicyclist too close.

    San Francisco has extensively studied Sharrows and this presentation from 2008 does a good job outlining problems/solutions which SDOT ignores http://www.sfmta.com/cms/bproj/documents/Sharrow_presentation_PWPB_2008_001.pdf

    The MUTDC Sharrow “recommendations” are also included, which specifically state that Sharrows not be placed in the door zone and indicate to all road users that bikes are to be expected. One cannot tell cyclists that they should follow the line of Sharrows through a door zone or into a curb (that picture of an incorrectly placed sharrow on Beach Drive is a perfect illustration – SDOT has not fixed that in spite of numerous complaints).

    I also think that many bicyclists who do stupid manouevers are just uneducated as to how to ride on the street. Those of us not running lights, not cutting across traffic and dodging in and out of the roadway are generally not noticed. Rather than high on endorphins, those people need training and experience.

  • Al April 22, 2009 (9:05 am)

    Stephanie, I agree. Education of both drivers and bicyclists is more important than Sharrows or other pavement markings will ever be.

  • flynlo April 22, 2009 (9:16 am)

    I always find it fascinating that while the city
    is painting “sharrows” to alert auto drivers to the presence of bicycles, they are at the same time
    sand blasting (removing) marked crosswalks which
    supposedly “alert” drivers to the presence of pedestrians!!

  • Joe April 22, 2009 (10:51 am)

    It is nice to see the city is doing a little more to protect the safety of cyclists (emphasis on little). The ultimate goal should be an off road trail system(like the Burke Gillman) linking all parts of the city and the entire state for that matter. I believe more cyclists would commute if there was a complete car free trail system.
    The sharrows on Beach Drive definitely bring a false sense of safety. If the city was committed to truly improving bicycle safety they would repair the massive cracks and uneven road surfaces which are the ultimate hazard on Beach Drive. Not to mention… a street sweeper would be nice once in a while.

  • Aaron April 22, 2009 (10:51 am)

    Agreed, enough with the sharrows. They are poorly placed, and the city puts them on some of the worst streets for cycling. Have you ever road down Western? Or California for that matter… a nightmare of potholes, cracks, and cars entering and exiting the road. Not the ideal spot for a novice. Put the money toward a safe corridor from the WS bridge to the Junction, at least. Not everyone that takes the bike path has the privilege of living on Alki.

  • Josh April 22, 2009 (12:02 pm)

    SDOT is setting itself up to pay massive claims if it starts officially recommending that cyclists align themselves with sharrows in door zones and parking lanes.

    Someone in the City Attorney’s office should review what they’re saying vs. what they’re doing and make them either install the sharrows properly or stop saying sharrows should guide lane location. Right now they’re just publishing evidence for future lawsuits.

    The MUTCD is very clear:

    “The Shared Lane Marking shown in Figure 9C-9 may be used to:
    A. Assist bicyclists with lateral positioning in a shared lane with on-street parallel parking in order to reduce the chance of a bicyclist’s impacting the open door of a parked vehicle,
    B. Assist bicyclists with lateral positioning in lanes that are too narrow for a motor vehicle and a bicycle to travel side by side within the same traffic lane,

    If sharrows are supposed to guide cyclists out of the door zone of parked cars, and into the center of lanes that are too narrow to share side-by-side with a car, then sharrows need to be out of the door zone of parked cars, and in the center of lanes that are too narrow to share.

    SDOT’s placement of sharrows is a lawsuit waiting to happen, and might end up getting someone killed.

  • Brian April 22, 2009 (1:01 pm)

    As an avid cyclist, bike racer and West Seattlite (click my name for a team plug) I am totally disgusted by the Sharrow. Awful street placing, a false sense of security and an absolute waste of tax payer money in my opinion. Fix the potholes, clean the streets of crud and broken glass and you will start to notice that those who ride bikes on the city roads will do so further away from active traffic.

    As a cyclist AND a driver I beg those who ride their bicycles on city streets to remember that they are NOT invincible and that cars HURT if you get in their way. Follow the rules of the road, get out of the way of vehicles, do NOT be a jerk.

    Bike Friendly!


  • julie April 22, 2009 (1:43 pm)

    I think that Brian’s comment should be for car’s too. That is don’t be a jerk when you are a driver. Give bikes adequate clearance and have some patience. The more people who bike to work mean less pollution and less traffic on the roads.

  • Been here a long time April 22, 2009 (6:04 pm)

    I used to be so avid in my support of bicyclist. I know I should never judge the many by the acts of the few. But for the bicyclist out there who do use the sidewalks and avoid the bike lanes, please don’t cuss children out for being on the sidewalk too. They are little and don’t jump as quickly as seniors like me. It really kills the support many of us have for the conscientious few.

  • M April 22, 2009 (7:34 pm)

    I have to disagree with Joe. The problem with “off road trail system(like the Burke Gillman)” is that they place you in danger when they cross paths with automotive traffic again. When automobiles don’t see you, or see you on a path, they ignore you and increase the chances they will hit you. On my daily commute, the problem areas are not on the trail or on the street, but are in the areas where you are suddenly thrust back out into the street. Better to ride in the street, predictably, follow the rules of the road and not be a jerk.

    Aaron is right about spending money on the roads. The one thing I would like to add is that when they do repair them that adequate planning is performed to provide viable routes for pedestrians and bicyclist through or around the construction zone. I was recently told by the police to go back and take the freeway with my bicycle to get past the construction on 14th Ave S (South Park)

  • Dawson April 22, 2009 (7:43 pm)

    Drove Sylvan Way tonight from Delridge to 35th. Noticed that a couple of the sharrows are pretty much smack dab in the middle of the lane of traffic. Interesting if we’re riding our bike and we’re supposed to align ourselves with them. SDOT, here’s an idea for Sylvan Way, how about expanding the asphalt trail/sidewalk on the north side of the road to accommodate bikes and get them out traffic on this hill?

  • Joe April 23, 2009 (10:26 pm)

    re; M. I never said the Burke Gillman was perfect. Some people are never happy. I would rather be away from the cars 98.6% of the time than alongside 100%. I don’t see your reasoning. Also, there are many signs alerting you the cyclist that there is a road crossing and that you the cyclist are suppose to stop. So I would recommend that you no longer thrust into traffic or you may be introduced to a car soon. Stop at the stop sign. Slow down and be cautious of cars even though you have the bright white walk signal. It’s our responsibility too.
    Make the trails and people will ride!

  • Brendan April 25, 2009 (11:03 am)

    slight OT, but does anyone know the “Brand” of the bicycle with the rust colored front bucket in the rear of the 2nd photo from top?

  • Brad April 29, 2009 (8:38 pm)

    The brand of bicycle with the front bucket is a Bakfiets. It’s a dutch bike imported through a place in Portland. However, the owner of that bike owns Aaron’s Bike Repair at the corner of Fauntleroy and California. Stop in. He’s pretty cool and can answer just about any question. Most of them will be right ;-)

  • Brendan May 2, 2009 (10:26 am)

    Thanks Brad! Knew I ‘d seen it before; perhaps outside Aaron’s?

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